BOSTON (AP) -- Terrence Long figures it was the best catch of his
career. He wasn't getting any arguments from the team he robbed.
Athletics center fielder Terrence Long, left, reaches into the bullpen and robs Manny Ramirez of a game-winning homer in the ninth.
Oakland's center fielder raced to the right-center field fence,
reached into the Boston bullpen and made a game-ending, backhanded
catch that robbed Manny Ramirez of a three-run homer and preserved
the Athletics' 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Wednesday night.
"A little bit of surprise, and a little bit of luck,'' Long
said. "Once I got close to the track, the ball was hit high enough
that I was able to slow down in case I had to jump.'' He didn't have to, but he couldn't avoid jubilant right fielder
Dye's tackle after the play "Somebody's got to tell him he's 6-feet-6, 220 pounds,'' Long
said. "He can't be jumping on me like that.'' Long's catch helped A's reliever Billy Koch escape a jam for the
second straight inning. Koch walked Johnny Damon and allowed a single to Trot Nixon with
one out in the ninth before striking out Nomar Garciaparra.
Ramirez, who hit his 19th homer of the year leading off the fourth,
then sent a drive that kept carrying. A security guard in the Red Sox bullpen had his arms raised in
celebration before Long's catch gave Koch his 28th save in 33
chances. "I hit it good,'' Ramirez said. "I saw the film and it was out
(of the field) but he made a hell of a catch. That's the way it
is.'' Koch then ran out to shallow center to give Long a grateful hug.
Several other A's ran out to celebrate. "It was a great catch,'' said Boston bullpen coach Bob Kipper,
who had a good view. "Number one, he gets to it. Number two, he
catches it. Number three, he hangs on to it.'' It ended a tense two innings for Oakland, now 58-0 in games it
led in the ninth. With two outs in the eighth, Koch allowed a run-scoring single
to Shea Hillenbrand. But with runners at first and third and two
outs he retired Brian Daubach on a groundout to first. "Sometimes it takes him a few hitters to get his feet on the
ground,'' Oakland manager Art Howe said. Dye hit a two-run homer and Aaron Harang (4-2) allowed one run
and three hits in 5 2-3 innings and left with a 2-1 lead. But Dye's homer faded in importance compared with Long's catch. "That's about the best you can get,'' Dye said. "Bottom of the
ninth inning, two outs, the game on the line and the No. 4 hitter
up.'' The Athletics' fourth straight win tied them with the Red Sox
for second place in the AL wild-card race, 1½ games behind Anaheim. "We'll just brush it off,'' John Burkett (10-5) said of
Boston's fourth loss in six games. "It was a great at-bat by Manny
and Terrence Long basically threw it back in our face.'' Dye's sixth-inning homer, his 12th of the year, followed a
two-out error by third baseman Hillenbrand and made both runs
unearned. The A's made it 3-1 in the seventh on a walk to Ramon
Hernandez and singles by Scott Hatteberg and Miguel Tejada. Tejada, whose 24-game hitting streak ended Tuesday, went
Burkett rebounded from his worst start of the season when he
allowed eight runs in 1 1/3 innings of a 19-7 loss at Texas. In his
previous start, he pitched a four-hit shutout against Baltimore in
his only complete game of the year.
He pitched well Wednesday, allowing one earned run and six hits
in 6 2/3 innings. But Harang, who had no decision in his previous five starts, was
better. He allowed one runner in each of the first three innings on
a single and two walks but none got past first base. In the fifth, with two outs and runners at first and second, he
got Ramirez to ground into a forceout. In the seventh, Ricardo
Rincon struck out Trot Nixon after Damon's two-out triple. Boston led 1-0 with two outs and no runners on in the top of the
sixth. Then Eric Chavez reached on Hillenbrand's second error in
two games and Dye followed with his homer.
In the eighth, Koch replaced Chad Bradford after Ramirez's
one-out single. Cliff Floyd struck out, but Jason Varitek walked
and Ramirez scored on Hillenbrand's hard single that just eluded
third baseman Chavez.
Varitek went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk. ...
The A's were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and are just
8-for-49 in their last six games. ... Floyd went 0-for-3 with a
walk and is 0-for-6 in two games at Fenway Park since Boston
obtained him from Montreal last week. He was 7-for-13 in his other
four games, all at Texas. ... CF Damon ran to deep right-center to
catch Dye's second-inning drive, then raced in for a sliding catch
on Hatteberg in the third. RF Nixon reached into the stands on the
foul side of the right-field line to catch David Justice's fly ball
in the sixth.